In the 2000 years since the crucifixion of Jesus, the human capacity for inflicting unspeakable pain hasn't dimmed. We are still as broken and fallen as we ever were. David Alton writes powerfully of how the fake trial and sadistic torture and death of Jesus are duplicated across the world right now:
Last weekend, on Palm Sunday, radicals acting, not for the first time, in the name of religion, laid bombs in a church – this time in Makassar in eastern Indonesia, injuring twenty people.
This week, the most important in the Christian calendar, is a favourite target of jihadists. Recall the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019, and the Easter murders of church goers in Lahore’s Gulsha-i-Iqbal Park, picnicking after their Service.
But for many the agonies of Good Friday are a daily occurrence.
Think of Northern Nigeria where Leah Sharibu, a young schoolgirl, remains in the hands of Boko Haram, having been abducted, raped, forcibly converted, and married. Since last Easter, more than 3,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria – a country which last year received an average of £800,000 in UK aid every single day.
In Pakistan, another Commonwealth country, Maria Shahbaz is just one of around 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls, aged between 12 and 25, who are abducted annually – with impunity. Ten years ago, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian Minister for Minorities, was assassinated. No one has been brought to justice. During the same period, Pakistan has been in receipt of £3 billion of UK aid, little of which reaches beleaguered minorities.
Think, too, of the personal Calvaries of China’s religious minorities: the genocide against Uyghur Muslims; the incarceration of Christians in Hong Kong; Tibet’s suffering Buddhists; murdered Falun Gong practitioners ; bulldozed churches and arrested pastors – such as Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church, now serving nine years in prison.
In neighbouring North Korea, another atheistic regime has created what a UN report describes as “a State without parallel” . A North Korean escapee from one of the concentration camps was a witness at a hearing I chaired in Westminster. She told us: “They tortured the Christians the most”.
There are twitchings of recognition from the UK government towards being part of the solution, the Truro Report into global persecution of Christians reported to the government in July 2019. Hunts successor Dominic Raab is saying something about China, rather than nothing. But as with most issues, covid has taken up most of our effort, thinking and priorities over the last 2 years.
One of my favourite movie lines (bear with me) is from The Negotiator, "You have no idea what I'm capable of", from Kevin Spacey's character. In the case of Spacey himself, it turns out we didn't. Good Friday shows us both what we are capable of, and what God is capable of. It faces us with the dark heart of human evil and violence - everything from sadism at school to genocide - and the astonishing hope of a God who can reach into all of it and redeem it. The Lord of the Flies meets the Lord of Glory.